On Wednesday, June 11, 2014 the DREAM (Dedicating Resources to Employees of Advertising and Media) Fund will honor Southwest Airlines Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly with the Advertising, Innovation, and Marketing Excellence (AIME) award. The AIME award is given annually to an individual in the corporate community who has done exceptional work in the area of advertising and marketing that reflects positively on the Dallas-Forth Worth area.
The fund-raising dinner, a collaborative effort between the Dallas-Forth Worth chapter of the American Marketing Association, the Dallas chapter of American Advertising Federation and DREAM Fund, a non-profit entity, is one of the premier events in the advertising and marketing community in Dallas-Forth Worth. With tickets priced at $125 a head you can be sure only the who’s who will be in attendance.
NDG had the opportunity to speak with DMNMedia National/Agency Sales Team Manager and DREAM Fund board member Steve Wellman to get an inside perspective of the AIME award dinner and the how and why of this award recipient for this year. The idea of the advertising and marketing award is to “honor someone who has done outstanding work, elevated the community and shed a good light on Dallas,” said Wellman. The DREAM Fund board chooses candidates in the corporate community whom they consider exemplify this business ethos. The board examines executives who have made a difference in the community via advertising and marketing according to Wellman. So, apparently in their opinion, Kelly fit the bill.
We thought that a bit ironic, that of the plethora of corporate executives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area the DREAM Fund would choose a recipient who has shown excellence in advertising, innovation and marketing that resides over a company that has recently been fined for violating advertising rules. We believe this is what Webster’s Dictionary would define as a contradiction.
On May 29, 2014 the Department of Transportation (DOT) fined Southwest Airlines $200,000 for violating the Department’s full-fare advertising rules and ordered it to cease and desist from continued infraction. On top of that the carrier was also fined an additional $100,000 for violating the cease and desist provision. In other words, the carrier previously committed the same violation and neglected to discontinue its false advertising. Perhaps they assumed they wouldn’t get caught a second time around, at least not within the same year.
The purpose of the full-fare advertising rule is to protect consumers, the little guys, the hardworking every day citizens, from deceptive marketing ploys when searching for plane tickets. With the exorbitant hike in air travel conflated with a stagnated economy and worker’s wages most Americans are increasingly searching for the best deal possible.
In October 2013, Southwest Airlines advertised $59 fares from Atlanta to New York, Los Angeles and Chicago on specified dates. But an investigation by DOT’s aviation Enforcement Office exposed that no seats were available on the carrier for that fare between Atlanta and any of the quoted cities on any of the dates referenced.
We asked Wellman if he was aware of the astounding conflict surrounding this year’s recipient of the AIME award. According to his words, as well as the official website of the DREAM Fund, the award is distinctly for “ a corporate leader who has used advertising and marketing to make their organization successful and reflect positively on Dallas-Fort Worth”.
Well, we suppose deceiving consumers by falsely advertising low fares is indeed a method of propelling your companies success, however, we don’t quite think such practices would reflect positively on your community. In fact the behavior of Kelly’s company is the antithesis of the aforementioned.
Wellman claimed he wasn’t completely abreast on the details of Southwest’s troubles with the DOT and that he had only vaguely heard something of the violation and imposed fine. Kelly’s nomination by current DREAM Fund president Richard Jones was, according to Wellman, before his tenure.
Perhaps it would behoove the board members of the DREAM Fund to vet future recipients of such a prestigious award more extensively before bestowing such an honor. Maybe someone whose business practices is more reflective of their credo.